Drink-drivers close to losing licences

Wānaka police constable Katrina Johnstone. PHOTO: REGAN HARRIS
Wānaka police constable Katrina Johnstone. PHOTO: REGAN HARRIS
Five drivers caught over the legal limit at checkpoints in Wānaka over the weekend were all "one mouthful" away from having their licences revoked, Senior Sergeant Fiona Roberts said.

A total of 694 tests were administered to drivers by the Queenstown Lakes Impairment Prevention Team (IPT) at two breath-testing checkpoints around town, she said.

All five drivers found over the limit had been issued with an infringement, but  they had all been less than 25mcg away from the 400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath limit that would have resulted in a court summons and an "inevitable" suspension of their licence, Snr Sgt Roberts said.

"That’s like one more mouthful.

"We’re getting a lot of the infringement offence level between 250[mcg] and 400[mcg]. Which to me would suggest that people are having a few drinks and just pushing it."

Reports police had received of a driver in a parked van warning drivers away from a checkpoint were "a bit disappointing", as it defeated the purpose of the operation, she said.

"We’re not there to annoy people, we’re there to keep them safe."

It was not worth the risk for drivers to get behind the wheel after drinking, and  there were always other choices people could make, she said.

An expected increase in road traffic over the school holidays  meant police were reiterating their message for motorists to take their time and drive to the conditions, Snr Sgt Roberts said.

Police would be focusing on seatbelt use, those driving under the influence or using  cellphones and excessive speed.

Elsewhere on Wānaka’s roads, police responded on Tuesday to an emergency call in the Cardrona Valley believed to have been transmitted from a smartwatch.

Snr Sgt Roberts said police had been dispatched to the approximate location of the call in Cardrona Valley Rd, but were unable to locate its source.

Some devices such as the Apple watch had a function that would send an emergency signal in the event of a motor vehicle crash, but police were only ever given very limited information to act on, she said.

She encouraged those who noticed their device had sent an emergency signal to attempt to contact their local police station to provide an update.

Next week, Snr Sgt Roberts will meet representatives of the QLDC and Civil Defence to discuss Wānaka’s resilience in the event of a natural disaster.

She said it was important for everyone to take a moment to consider their own position, and to have a plan for themselves and their family in the event of an emergency.

"It could be as simple as, if I can’t communicate with you this is where we meet.

"And my suggestion would be that it would be somewhere that had a bit of height.

"Just have a plan."

Snr Sgt Roberts also introduced one of the newest additions to the Wānaka Police Station, Constable Katrina Johnstone.

A resident of Wānaka for 12 years, Const Johnstone previously taught year 7 to 9 pupils at Mount Aspiring College and said it had been a long-held ambition of hers to join the police force.

"I actually wanted to join when I left school and then was advised by a few people to get a bit more life experience.

"I enjoyed working with children so went down the teaching route instead. I really enjoyed that. It’s been a really rewarding career."

Prior to joining the team in Wānaka, Const Johnstone  worked for 18 months with Queenstown police. She also spent time attached to the family harm team in Hastings, performing welfare checks with families in the wake of Cyclone Gabriel.

More recently, she has also worked on the police’s "Loves-Me-Not" programme, which involved her visiting high schools to educate pupils about consent and maintaining healthy relationships.

"Being able to step into that role, having that teaching background, that’s something I found easy to do and quite rewarding."

Snr Sgt Roberts said Const Johnstone brought "amazing transferable leadership skills into the organisation", and demonstrated the potential that could be brought by individuals considering a career change.